State Police Crack 42-Year-Old Homicide Case Involving Burning Body Found in Mercer County

| May 25, 2022

MERCER, Pa. (EYT) – After 42 years, members of the Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) Troop D Criminal Investigation Assessment Unit, utilizing DNA testing and genealogy methods, identified the victim, Edwin Rodriguez, and accused, Nestor Quintanal, in a 1980 homicide cold case in Mercer County.

Mercer County District Attorney Peter Acker recently reviewed the case and advised homicide charges would have been filed against Quintanal if he had not died in Florida in 2002 at age 71.

The Criminal Investigation Unit at Troop D, Mercer began its investigation Nov. 6, 1980, when a burning body was discovered near Interstate 80 in Wolf Creek Township. An autopsy determined the victim was a 16- to 19-year-old white male, 115 pounds, 5 feet, 8 inches tall. The victim had third-degree burns on 70% of his body and could not be identified at the time.

Due to the advancements in technology and funding provided by the district attorney’s office for advanced testing and screening, in 2007 a DNA profile was obtained from the victim through evidence collected at the 1980 autopsy. In January 2019, the victim’s DNA profile was sent to Parabon NanoLabs for DNA Phenotype testing and a genetic genealogy screening. A first cousin of the victim was identified and contacted, which led to the identification of Rodriguez, who was from Chicago, Illinois.

Further investigation identified a family friend, Quintanal. It was discovered Quintanal and Rodriguez, 18, left Chicago for Florida in the fall of 1980. After they left, the victim’s family never heard from him again.

As a result of the positive identification, Rodriguez’s remains were returned to his family in Chicago, thus closing the case.


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